Albion to Holly, Alameda to 8th Avenue
Prehistoric camels and mammoths and Hilltop are surprisingly connected. Just ask the people who built at 6th and Clermont and 1st and Cherry…the bones were there to prove it!
Hilltop encompasses one square mile and is bounded by Colorado Boulevard and Holly, from 8th Avenue to Alameda. The first settlers in this area were Levi Booth and his wife who built a log cabin near Cherokee Trail (beside Cherry Creek) in 1859. With Denver being four miles away, this acted as the final weigh station along the trip. The cabin has since been preserved as Four Mile Historic Park and a living history museum.
As with all development around Denver, water was the key and when the water was available, people came. The City Lateral Canal, which was a branch of the High Line Canal, brought water to the area in 1885. Shortly after, in 1886, Milo A. Smith platted the Eastern Capitol Hill Subdivision. Adjacent neighborhoods like Montclair, South Denver, and Harman had already become townships by this time.
Bradford DuBois along with William Malone bought the northern 1/3 of what is currently Hilltop and mapped the Malone and DuBois Subdivision in 1886. They didn’t consider the existence of the Eastern Capitol Hill Subdivision and consequently each street between 3rd and 4th Avenues fails to connect with existing streets. The two were joined in 1893 when they were combined as Hilltop and annexed to the City of Denver.
Prominent citizens of Hilltop include its first resident, Louis Dugal (6th and Dahlia) who was a prominent lawyer and realtor and drafted the 1868 Denver Map adopted by the Board of Travel, John Leet, founder of the short-lived Leetsdale community, and John Lang Smith, who along with his son ran the largest plastering company west of the Mississippi. They created ornamental ceilings in a variety of places including Union Station. Still, development in Hilltop was slow to get started with a count of only 6 homes in the 1900 census and 24 in 1910.
Along came George Cranmer, Manager of Improvement and Parks for Denver from 1935-1947. He is credited with the development of many local parks including Red Rocks, Winter Park (the first mountain park for winter sports), and many of Denver’s parks. To accumulate more park land, Cranmer traded vacant lots the city received for non-payment of taxes.
In Hilltop, he bought land as close as possible to the area designated for a future park and built a Benedict Mansion at 200 Cherry, which is the highest point in Hilltop. Opened in 1923, the park was officially named Mountain View Park. He also developed Robinson Park in Hilltop, which was later renamed Cranmer Park in 1959.
Throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s development continued and the arrival of the University of Colorado School of Medicine at Colorado and 8th in 1925 brought even more residents. Graland Country Day School (another Benedict creation) moved from Colfax out to the “country” at 30 Birch Street in 1927 partially to accommodate the students in the neighborhood (including Benedict’s own children). Prior to its arrival, students had to take a buggy or the 2nd Avenue trolley to Bromwell! Named for Amos Steck, former Denver Mayor, Senator, and President of the School Board, Steck Elementary was built in 1930. Now for the first time Hilltop kids could walk together to either public or private school.
By 1950, 728 homes were located in Hilltop, compared with 42 in 1928. Clearly this area of dinosaur bones out in the “country” had been discovered and was well on its way to becoming one of the best loved neighborhoods in Denver.